When Kate first asked me to write a piece for MHAW 2020 on the theme of kindness, my first thought was absolutely yes, quickly followed by, there has never been a greater need for human kindness than during this time of uncertainty caused by the worldwide pandemic of Covid-19. As I write this, we are about five weeks into ‘lockdown’ and the media (of all descriptions) are full terrible, terrible situations which I feel we barely have the language to describe. Equally, there is much news of the random acts of kindness around the world, and it does indeed seem that human tragedy on such a catastrophic scale is bringing out the best in so many people.
I started by looking at the Oxford dictionary definition of kindness ‘the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.’ I asked around friends and family, who offered words such as offering help but not expecting anything in return, supports you to achieve/do something, is instigated by the ‘giver’ not the ‘recipient’, it’s often unexpected. This led me to thinking about what the word ‘kindness’ actually means to me. Thoughtful, is the first word that springs to mind, considerate, caring, compassionate, loving and empathetic soon follow. In other words, they are acts that show me that I matter, that I matter to someone, or that someone is/or has thought about me.
This led to thoughts about kindness now, during this isolating and social distancing time, what kindness have I been shown? The neighbour, who without fail, rings every time before a supermarket trip to see if we need anything. The friend who seems to always know when to ring, the Twitter friends who send things to make me laugh, the coffee (and occasional biscuit) brought for me when my hubby knows I am on the seemingly never-ending video calls. The countless priceless art pieces I have been sent by small children in my life, and I am sure you could add many more. These are all small acts of kindness that have eased my isolation, and none were grand expensive gestures – but all showed kindness, compassion and helped me to know that I matter.
I also thought about a random act of kindness from a complete stranger, that will stay with me for a very, very long time. Earlier this week, my husband I were in our local supermarket. We regularly use the ‘self-scan’ (affectionally called the bleep-bleep machine by one little person in our family), and this day was no exception. We completed the shopping we needed and headed to the checkout. As we approached the self-scan till, and rolled our trolley alongside, I said to my husband that I would sort the technology and then he could pay. I saw him look at my shoulder, take in the fact that I didn’t have my handbag, and, although I have read the sentence many times, I have never actually seen it happen in real life… ‘the colour drained from his face.’ I knew before he said it ‘…. but I haven’t got my wallet. You said the pocket was torn in my trousers, so I took it out.’
Thankfully, we only live a few minutes from the local supermarket, and we are well known in there. I knew it wouldn’t be an issue for me to wait, while hubby nipped home. So off hubby went, I explained to the checkout assistant what had happen (who laughed, and said it happens all the time)… and then something else happened. Another customer approached the checkouts, a lady I had never met, and she said to me: ‘I couldn’t help overhearing, if you’ve internet banking, you can transfer the money to my account, and I’ll pay for your shopping. Would that help, and save you having to come back?’
The act of kindness from a complete stranger was truly astounding, and I was overwhelmed with a range of emotions. It took all my resilience not to burst in to tears. The tears that sprang to my eyes, were not ones of sadness, but of gratitude, appreciation and almost the sheer gratefulness of being shown understanding from another human. You often hear the phrase ‘restored my faith in humanity’ – and it really was one of those moments. As it was, my husband had already shot off and so I didn’t take up the kind offer, but the fact that it was made is something I know I will carry with me for a long time.
In terms of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, and the theme of kindness, I’d like to challenge you to ‘pay it forward’. I’m not suggesting you offer to pay for someone’s shopping, but those small acts that show someone that they matter.
Send that text, post on Social Media, send an email, a letter, card or photo, make a phone call – whatever is your preferred way. But do it, do it regularly, and do it frequently. Be kind, spread kindness and I am convinced you will get it back in the bucket load.
And, so, to finish off, those people who know me well will know I love a quote, so here is one of my favourites.
Debbie Garvey is a passionate about early childhood and supporting children, families & the dedicated practitioners who work with them. Debbie Garvey – Trainer, Writer, Consultant.
www.stonegatetraining.co.uk/ Twitter @stoneg8training